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Crew members that are able to satisfy the “seaman status” requirements under admiralty law have special rights and remedies not afforded to other workers. Unfortunately, without assistance from a seaman injury lawyer, the worker may not understand their legal options. For example, a shoreside employee is generally barred from suing his or her employer due to the immunity afforded under the Workers Compensation Act. This is not true for a seaman, who may sue his or her employer under a Federal Statute called the “Jones Act”.
Additionally, a shoreside employee is not able to sue under theories of strict liability. This is also not true with regard to a Jones Act seaman, who possesses an additional claim for “unseaworthiness” against a yacht or shipowner. Under an unseaworthiness claim, a Jones Act seaman may sue for the mere existence of a dangerous condition that in any way contributes to an injury. This is true even if the yacht or shipowner was unaware of the dangerous condition before it caused an injury. Jones Act seamen are afforded these and other special rights in recognition of the perils and hazards associated with their shipboard duties.
A seaman who is injured may sue his employer, the vessel owner and, in some instances, even the vessel itself referred to as an “in rem” claim under various theories that include:
Each of these claims requires that certain elements be proven to the Judge or Jury deciding your case. If even only one of the needed elements is not proven, one or more of your claims may be dismissed. This means you will not receive compensation for your injury. Knowing what elements must be proven under each maritime claim and how to prove these elements is the business of an experienced seaman injury lawyer and the trade honed by Brais Law Firm for nearly 30 years.
Crew members who suffer personal injury or death due to an accident resulting from a shipping company’s violation of a statute or regulation may pursue a strict liability claim. Having previously represented cruise ship companies, ship and vessel operators, and yacht owners for 19 years, the board-certified maritime attorneys at Brais Law Firm are in a unique position to help crew members who have suffered personal injury or death due to an accident while aboard any type of “vessel”, including a cruise ship, tanker, yacht, tug, ferry or workboat. The seaman injury lawyers at the law firm of Brais Law Firm are here to help crew members and seafarers injured as a result of an accident aboard any one of these vessels.
A crew member’s employer is strictly liable for any injury caused by the violation of a Federal statute or regulation designed for the safety of the crewmember. However, unlike the typical Jones Act seaman negligence case where the employer of the crew member can reduce the damages owed proportionally by the negligence of the injured crew member, an employer is barred under a negligence per se claim from reducing the damages available to a crew member due to the crewmember’s comparative fault. This is an important difference.
For example, if a crewmember was injured not as a result of the employer’s failure to comply with a Federal safety statute or regulation, and the crewmember proved $1 Million in damages, but the employer proved that the crew member was 99% responsible for his/her accident, the crew member would only receive $1 Thousand at the end of the trial. However, if a crewmember was injured but this time as a result of the employer’s failure to comply with a Federal safety statute or regulation, the employer would be unable to reduce the award to the crew member even if s/he was 99% responsible for his/her our injury. The crewmember would receive the full $1 Million at the end of the trial. This example is illustrated below:
|Jones Act Negligence||Negligence Per Se|
|$1 Million in Damages||$1 Million in Damages|
|Crewmember 99% at Fault||Crewmember 99% at Fault|
|$1,000.00 Awarded||$1 Million Awarded|
When you have a claim as an injured crew member, you need to be careful to protect your legal rights. Unfortunately, you cannot rely on your employer to act with your best interests in mind. If you wait too long to seek treatment, say the wrong things or return to work too soon, these are all mistakes that could prevent you from recovering the financial compensation you deserve. With this in mind, if you have been injured on the water in a job-related accident, you should:
If your vessel has an onboard doctor, you can (and generally should) seek treatment immediately. However, you should also see a doctor of your own choosing as soon as you get back to shore. While the onboard doctor should provide appropriate medical care, he or she may ultimately have your employer’s best interests in mind. A doctor who is unaffiliated with your employer will be solely focused on helping you recover as fully and quickly as possible.
When you are able to do so, you should take detailed notes about the accident. How did you get injured? What happened? Did any of your fellow crew members witness the accident? Do you suspect a safety violation or an issue with the vessel itself? All of these are important details that our seaman injury lawyer will need to know in order to help you recover just compensation.
At this point, you should avoid talking to your employer about the accident. You should let your attorneys deal with your claims for maintenance and cure, and you will need your attorneys to investigate to determine whether you have a claim for unseaworthiness, Jones Act negligence, or negligence per se. If you talk to your employer, you may end up saying the wrong thing, and your employer may pressure you not to seek the financial compensation to which you are legally entitled.
Be sure to keep any records you receive from your employer and your medical providers. Your attorneys will need these to evaluate and build your claim as well. You should also try to get into the habit of recording your pain levels and writing down the other ways your injuries negatively impact your life on a daily basis.
If you find all of this overwhelming, you are not alone. Dealing with a job-related injury is never easy, and it can be especially difficult when you get injured at sea. Our seaman injury lawyers can walk you through everything you need to know, and we can handle much of the process on your behalf while you focus on your recovery.
It costs nothing to learn about your legal rights, and we encourage injured crew members to contact us 24/7. To find out how much you can recover for your offshore or maritime injury, schedule a free consultation at Brais Law Firm today.
Injured crew members are entitled to a per diem living allowance (a/k/a “maintenance”), medical care and costs associated therewith (a/k/a “cure”), and substitute wages (a/k/a “sick wages”) any time a crew member suffers an injury, accident or illness while “subject to the call of the vessel.” Having previously represented cruise ship companies, ship & vessel operators, and yacht owners for 19 years, the board-certified seaman injury lawyers at Brais Law Firm are in a unique position to protect crew members whose marine employer is not paying maintenance and cure benefits following a shipboard injury, accident or illness. The lawyers at the law firm of Brais Law Firm with offices in Miami, Florida, and Boston, Massachusetts are here to help crew members and seaman who, after having suffered an injury, accident, or illness and are not receiving their maintenance and cure benefits.
The duty of ship owners to provide maintenance and cure benefits for the crew members and seamen working for them in time of injury or illness is hundreds of years old. Maintenance and cure is a remedy dependent upon Jones Act seaman status. “Maintenance” is the daily allowance intended to provide ill or injured crew member and seamen lodging and food while convalescing. “Cure” is medical expenses necessary to treat ill or injured seamen and transportation to and from doctors’ offices. Sick wages is simply the amount of wages a seaman would receive if s/he was well enough to continue working for the remainder of the voyage or contract period.
The obligation to pay maintenance, cure, and sick wages arise when a seaman becomes ill or is injured regardless of any negligence or fault on the part of the marine employer or ship owner/operator. The illness need not arise out of the seaman’s occupation and, thus, can arise out of a medical condition such as a heart problem, a prior illness that resurfaces during a seaman’s employment or, in certain circumstances, an injury suffered on shore.
The seaman injury lawyers at Brais Law Firm have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skills to obtain the compensation you deserve. Our firm’s primary office is located in Miami, FL, although we routinely handle claims nationwide. To reach our lawyers call 305-416-2901 from within Florida, call 800-499-0551 from within the U.S., or click Contact Us to complete a form for a free evaluation of your case and to learn how the “AV” Preeminent, Multi-Million Dollar Advocates and Board Certified Maritime Attorneys with Brais Law Firm might be able to help you today.
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